Farm as Solar Collector: Part 2

By John Mattingly

Last month, I waved goodbye to my last commentary column by saying:

But why should farmers get higher prices for their crops? Isn’t food already expensive enough? That good loaf of bread that used to cost a buck is now crowding six. What if I told you that loaf should really cost you a twenty?

Next month, I’ll discuss why higher commodity (and thus food) prices are not only inevitable, but necessary.

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Water Update

by John Orr

Forecasting water year 2011

November 1 is the usual start of the water year here in Colorado, although some – including the the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – say it starts on October 1. That said, by the time December rolls around the new water year has started, irrigation is mostly off, except for livestock and some farmers that like to ice their meadows heading into the winter.

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Excerpts from ‘Around Monarch Pass’

Author Duane Vandenbusche, a professor of history at Western State College in Gunnison since 1962, is the author of several books on the Gunnison Country and Western Colorado. Until 2007, he doubled as a cross-country coach at the college, where his men’s and women’s teams won 12 national championships and produced three Olympians. In this volume, photographs gathered from libraries, museums, private collections, and old-timers – many of them previously unpublished – bring the rich history of Monarch Country alive.

We have been given permission to publish excerpts from the book for you here. Dr. Vandenbusche will be giving a presentation about Monarch Pass at the Salida SteamPlant on December 11 at 6:00 p.m. All are welcome to attend.

Photos and text reprinted with permission from “Around Monarch Pass,” by Duane Vandenbusche. Available from the publisher online at or by calling (888) 313-2665.

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Election Season Blues

By Ed Quillen

In ways, I miss the old-fashioned Election Day. Our precinct polling place was across the street from our house, and I work at home. I’d look out the front window, and when I didn’t see many cars parked, I knew there wouldn’t be much of a line.

Now we have “voting centers,” and ours is four blocks away, too far for easy traffic observation. So it’s easier just to vote early, which makes the whole concept of Election Day rather meaningless. It’s more like “Election Season.”

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Letters to the Editor

The Representatives We Deserve

To the Editor:

On the Martha Quillen article (October 2010): Years ago when I lived in Jefferson County, I supported Don Brotzman. At one event I went to in the late 60s or early 70s, he said studies have shown an electorate gets the kind of government it deserves. Obviously he said this in a kidding manner, but I think there’s a little more truth to it than I first thought.

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Historic Architecture of Central Colorado

This two-story, T-shaped building is situated in the center of Poncha Springs directly across from the town park.? Large cottonwood trees, purportedly planted in 1879, frame the front elevation.? The building is faced with red brick made at the Salida Brickyard and hauled by wagon to the site. The cross gable metal roof has wooden brackets supporting the wide overhanging eaves and a bell tower with a concave roof profile.

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A Farmer Far Afield – Farm as Solar Collector

By John Mattingly

Back in the late fall of 1976, I traveled down to Springfield, Colorado to participate in the Farmer’s Strike.

I’d started farming in the late 60s when the markets got really good, especially in 1973 after the first Oil Embargo when commodity prices reached record high levels. When commodity prices fell off precipitously in 1976, I was all for letting the world know it was wrong.

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Statehouse Update

By Candice Geier

Uplifting the Recession

Despite the recession, Colorado is still placing high in economic growth when compared to other states, according to CNBC and Forbes Magazine.

According to Forbes, Colorado is fourth in the nation for fostering businesses and economic growth.

“Even in this tough economy, Colorado has remained aggressive, disciplined and focused when it comes to supporting businesses and encouraging economic growth,” Governor Ritter said in a press release from the State House.

The press release stated that because of Colorado’s New Energy Economy, tax cuts for small businesses and investments in employee training have helped keep the state competitive.

According to CNBC, Colorado is third best place in the nation to do business. It took the second spot for quality of life and is the fourth friendliest state. Its economy came in at number eight.

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Energy Matters: SOS: Schools on Solar

by Michael Brown

There is an SOS coming from communities across the nation: Save Our Schools. With the rise of new financing tools like power purchase agreements (PPAs) and the right support from the public and politicians, we believe we have an answer: Schools On Solar.

Schools nationwide are in dire fiscal straits and have been forced to make hard financial decisions to stay afloat – usually by shutting down an increasingly comprehensive list of classes, skimping on materials and shutting down operations.

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Down on the Ground with the Ecology of Fear

By George Sibley

Cruising into election time, I find myself thinking about wolves. And fear.

I have been following, in a layman’s way, the wolf restoration project in the northern Rockies. One thing I’ve learned is that wolf restoration is credited with restoring the unraveling valley ecosystem in and around Yellowstone National Park. Without going into details, this is mainly due to the way the wolves have shaped the elk herds. Without the wolves, their main natural predator, the elk had not only over-populated the valleys, but had also become fat and lazy “meadow potatoes” (Dave Foreman’s term), loafing around the valley floors trashing the vegetation foundation to any ecosystem.

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Restaurant Review

Alfonso’s Real Mexican Food
2801 East Main Street
Canon City, CO 81212
(719) 276-0186

Driving through Cañon City on U.S. Hwy 50 it is easy to miss one of the best taquerías in Central Colorado. That’s because it is located inside a Conoco mini-mart off a frontage road on the southeast side of town and takes a bit of searching to locate if you don’t know your way around.

We call it a taquería, but it is much more than that. The menu is vast and the food is prepared quickly. If you are looking for fish tacos, shrimp burritos, mulita, carne asada fries or a chimichanga to take with you on the road or enjoy in the dining room/ mini- mart, you definitely want to give them a try.

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Book Review: The Book of John

The Book of John, By Kate Niles

O-Books, paperback, 225 pages
ISBN-10: 1846942918
ISBN-13: 978-1846942914

Reviewed by Annie Dawid

Surely we are all autistic at some level, in some place in our hearts? Living in this country, with its glamour and malls, its stream of cars, its TV and competition, is like battering yourself against a sea wall, time and again. How do you not retreat into a world of your own in the face of that?

John Gregory Wayne Thompson, eponymous hero of Kate Niles’s second novel, ponders thus in the first chapter of this exquisitely-rendered journey of one man’s soul, from the deserts of Southwest Colorado to the cold beaches of Neah Bay in the Pacific Northwest, tracking his life and loves like an archeologist mapping our collective history.

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The Imagery of Charles Frizzell

Frizzell, Shaman

What would be the best course of action when the director of the art department at your college informs you just prior to graduation that you will never make it as an artist? That you are too “scattered?”

In the case of artist Charles Frizzell, he chose to ignore her admonition and went on to have a successful and rewarding career as a working artist despite that lack of endorsement.

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Lines in the sand

by Virginia McConnell Simmons

At times, people like to feel assured that some things will never change. For instance, God’s in his heaven, the Big Dipper points north, and if you go east or west on the 39th parallel, you can take a swim somewhere around the Mediterranean Sea or fry an egg on a rock in Death Valley. Unless you are picky, and geographers do tend to be picky.

Take the 37th parallel north for instance. For 146 years this parallel has been a border running 761 miles between Kansas and Oklahoma, Colorado and New Mexico, and Utah and Arizona, but in 2009 the line was moved 365 feet south. Saving state legislatures and assessors’ offices a lot of trouble, the state line now is N 36?59.939. Whether the bronze disk marking the Four Corners will be moved remains to be seen.

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Tales from the Road

By Mark Kneeskern

“There was a train wreck in Tiny Town today.”

This was said in a serious voice. Laughter bubbles up in my throat as I picture a bunch of fat tourists perched on a toy train which slowly tips over. I hear people were actually hurt, but no one died, so couldn’t we have a tiny chuckle at their expense? I received this breaking news from Allen, who pilots his Chevy pickup East on Route 7. Allen is an aircraft mechanic who works on big jets at Denver International Airport.

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Star Light, Star Not-So-Bright

By Susan Tweit

It’s fall, and as the days shorten, I miss the sunlight, but I revel in the chance to star-gaze. Long nights combine with our clear, dry high-country air to provide perfect conditions for viewing the night sky.

Just before going to bed this time of year, Richard and I slip outside and turn our heads to the sky, searching for the dazzling river of the Milky Way, picking out the planets and their progression, and identifying the dot-to-dot patterns of the constellations.

Sadly, light pollution has erased the once-ordinary view of the stars in most cities and urban areas; even in uncrowded rural landscapes, badly-placed yard or security lights can blot out neighbors’ view of the night sky.

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There’s something in the water, Part 2

By Hal Walter

The sobering test results indicating our well water contains high levels of lead and nitrates, as well as E. coli and coliform bacteria, raised more questions than answers.

While lead seemed the most alarming concern, nitrates were another puzzle. Generally nitrates are found in areas where high levels of chemical fertilizers are used in agriculture. They also can be present as a by-product of bacteria.

But the presence of bacteria itself was also a puzzle. Over the years we have tested for bacteria several times. All of the previous bacteria tests were negative.

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